Edmond François Aman-Jean

1858 - 1936

Biography

Edmond Aman-Jean spent his early childhood in St-Amand, where his father ran an inland water transport company. Both his parents died before he was ten years old, and he went to live with his uncle in Paris. After a classical education at a Jesuit school, he started working at the studio of the sculptor Justin Lequien, where George Seurat was a fellow pupil. In 1878, with Seurat, he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, studying under Henri Lehmann, who also taught Pissarro. There, Aman-Jean, Ernest Laurent and Seurat realised they had a shared interest in Impressionism and consequently decided to leave the school. The pencil portrait of Aman-Jean by Seurat is a moving testimony to the intensity of his early years. At the Salon of 1881 he discovered Puvis de Chavannes, and from around 1883 he worked with him, assisting on Sacred Grove, which adorns a wall of the main staircase of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyons. He won his first award at the Salon in 1883, and in 1885 he was given a travel scholarship to Rome, where he went with Ernest Laurent and Henri Martin. After joining Stéphane Mallarmé’s Cercle des Mardis, he was asked to participate in the Salon de la Rose-Croix in 1892 and 1893. It was around this time that he struck up a friendship with Verlaine that was to endure until his death. He stopped exhibiting at the Salon des Artistes Français, which he considered too conventional, and began exhibiting regularly at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, becoming a member in 1893, and chairman of the painting section in 1914, 1921 and 1922. From 1896 to 1897 he went on a long trip to Italy with his wife, staying in Naples and Amalfi. In 1889 he won a silver medal, and in 1900 was awarded a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle. On that occasion he was also made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur (he was later made an Officier, then in 1933 a Commandeur, as well as an Officier de l’Ordre de Léopold de Belgique). From 1899 onwards he often exhibited with the Société des Pastellistes de France. In 1899 he founded the Société Nouvelle de Peintres et Sculpteurs, which exhibited at the Galerie Georges Petit for 14 years. Around the turn of the century he travelled to Munich, Holland, Belgium and England and to Vienna as a guest of the Secession. He also made many trips to Italy. From 1902 onwards he was frequently invited to the USA to produce commissioned portraits of numerous public figures, as well as murals in a number of towns. He was also invited to exhibit there, notably at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh until 1914, where he was on the judging panel. He even organised an exhibition of French art between 1911 and 1912 which took place in Buffalo, St Louis and Pittsburgh. In 1912 he took part in the new Salon de la Triennale with, among others, Maurice Denis and Renoir. In 1913 he was appointed curator of the La Fontaine museum in Château-Thierry. Also in 1913 he published his paper on Velazquez, which was an immediate success. His work was interrupted by World War I. For four years he stayed in Château-Thierry, which fell under German occupation, and almost ceased painting altogether. After 1922 he left the Société Nationale and founded the Salon des Tuileries together with Albert Besnard, who became its chairman, with Aman-Jean and Bourdelle as vice-chairmen. He very rarely had solo exhibitions, but exhibited jointly with René Ménard at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1925. In 1936 a major exhibition was held at the Salon des Tuileries in his honour. Since his death he has been represented at collective exhibitions of the works of his era. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris held a retrospective of his work in 1970; the Musée de la Chartreuse in Douai and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Carcassonne hosted the exhibition Dreams of Women, Edmond Aman-Jean in 2003 and 2004.

 

In the 1880s he had produced engravings and lithographs. His lithographs were a big success. He made little effort to distribute his etchings. He was a careful draughtsman, working in charcoal, lithographic pencil, coloured chalk and pastels. He produced decorative compositions, most of them destined for various public buildings in Paris: St Julian the Nurse in 1883, Joan of Arc in 1885, The Park in 1901 for the town hall in Château-Thierry, four panels for the Marsan wing of the Louvre in 1908-1909, and painted The Four Elements for the chemistry lecture theatre at the Sorbonne in 1912, after which the parliament of Chile commissioned four large panels for the parliamentary palace. For a while after his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts, Aman-Jean practised Seurat’s technique of divisionism, but he soon reverted to a ‘flat’ style as he tackled his first few commissions for decorative compositions. During his stay in Naples and Amalfi in 1896 and 1897, the harsher light enabled him to discover more vibrant colours, and he took to using these in moderation during this first period of maturity. Gradually from 1912 onwards his work began to reflect a sensitivity to the intimate charm of Bonnard’s work. Today, this intimist part of his output is more appreciated, although it surprised those around him at the time. Works include portraits of women at home: Portrait of Miss S. Poncet, Portrait of Mrs. Juliette Second, and some anonymous young women with dreamy, melancholy demeanours: Confiding Secrets, Waiting and Woman with a Peacock, in which we witness both the supple rigour of his drawing and the colour harmonies, muted again but punctuated with brighter notes, which especially characterise his later work. The critic Roger Marx thought, with respect to these young women, that ‘the unfathomable mystery of the eyes and the vague smile suggest the flight of troubled thought’, although it is true that art criticism leaned towards psychological explanation at the time. He also depicted numerous nudes, no longer portrayed as allegories, but displaying a healthy sensuality, particularly in his drawings from 1906-1907 onwards, which testify clearly to his interest in femininity.

Museum and Gallery Holdings

 

Aix-les-Bains (Mus. Faure): Woman with a Black Hat (1900); Woman with a Pink Shawl (c. 1905, pastel); Reverie, Nude Study (c. 1907, charcoal and watercolour); Woman in a Dressing Gown (c. 1915, pastel); Bather with Rose (c. 1925)

Amsterdam (Van Gogh Mus.): Pensive Young Woman, Portrait of Thadée Aman-Jean (1892)

Brest: St Genevieve outside Paris (1885)

Bucharest: Confiding Secrets (1908)

Buenos Aires: Woman with Blue Vase

Carcassonne: St Julian L’Hospitalier (1882); Doubter (1900)

Château-Thierry: The Violinist (c. 1905, pastel); Woman with a Coral Necklace, Miss Ella Carmichael (c. 1908); Portrait of Dr. Ernest de Massary (1914); Portrait of Mme Ladureau (1933)

Château-Thierry (Town Hall): The Park (1901, in collaboration with Aubert)

Cincinnati (AM): Merry Woman (La Rieuse) (engraving)

Cleveland (MA): Meditation (1891)

Dijon (MBA): Merry Woman (c. 1897, lithograph); Hair (c. 1898, lithograph); Reverie (c. 1898, pastel); Woman with Glove (1902, pastel); Head of a Woman in a White Hat (1902, pastel); Portrait of a Woman, Mme Ernest Chausson (1902); Line Aman-Jean Dressed as Marie-Antoinette (1903); Still-life (c. 1905); Little Girl in the Meadows

Douai: Privacy, Reading (1904); Goodbye to the Swallows (1923); Resting after the Duet (1924); Raining Stars (c. 1925)

Gray: Young Woman with Yellow Scarf (1895); Woman with White Glove (1898, pastel); La Pierreuse (1898, pastel); Study of a Woman (c. 1905, charcoal, pastel and distemper); Young Girl with Flowers (c. 1905); Study of a Reclining Nude (c. 1905, charcoal, chalk and watercolour); Woman in a Straw Hat (c. 1905, pastel); Nude with a Hat (1906, charcoal and pastel); Portrait of Mr Edmond Pigalle (1906, charcoal and pastel); Nude with Pergola (1906-1907, charcoal and pastel); Portrait of a Woman, Mme René-Jean (1907, charcoal and pastel); Young Woman with Blue Eyes (1920)

Kurashiki (Ohara MA): Hair (c. 1910); Family Portrait (1913)

Limoux (Mus. Petiet): Young Girl with Dog (1913)

Lyons (MBA): Head of a Woman (c. 1907, charcoal and pastel); Crouching Woman (c. 1907, pastel); Portrait of a Young Woman with an Amphora (c. 1907, pastel); Narcissism, Nude Woman in Front of a Mirror (1928)

Metz: Portrait of Verlaine (1892)

Nantes (MBA): Portrait of Mlle Marguerite de Massary (1909, charcoal and pastel); Young Girl with a Green Necklace (c. 1922)

Notre Dame (Snite MA, University of Notre Dame): Portrait of Princess Galitzine (c. 1900)

Orléans: Joan of Arc at Prayer (1889); Joan of Arc Entering Orléans (c. 1889)

Paris (Louvre, Drawings Collection): Portrait of a Woman (c. 1895, pencil and charcoal); Reclining Nude (1906, charcoal and pastel); Woman in a Hat (c. 1906, pastel); Nude Between Two Cushions (1906, pastel); Woman in Drapes Followed by a Man (c. 1908, pastel); Woman with Monkey (1908, charcoal and pastel)

Paris (Municipal Collection): The Four Elements (1912)

Paris (Mus. d’Orsay): Portrait of Mlle Thadée Jacquet (1892); Idleness (c. 1895, pastel); Portrait of a Woman, Ella Carmichael (1904); Young Girl with Dog (Salon of 1914); Portrait of Mgr. Pechenard, Bishop of Soissons (1916, series of drawings and pastels); Woman with Rose (lithograph)

Paris (Mus. des Arts décoratifs): Young Girl with Peacock (1895); Meditation (1905); Confiding Secrets (1905, four panels, including ‘La Comédie’); La Collation (c. 1908-1909); The Little Hurdy-Gurdy Girl (c. 1910); Acrobat (1910); France (1910); Interior Scene (1921)

Paris (Mus. du Petit Palais): Portrait of Mlle Segond (1900); Bust of a Young Woman (c. 1902, pastel); Nude Woman Stretched Out (1906, charcoal and pastel); Nude Standing in a Wreath of Foliage (1906, charcoal and pastel); Standing Nude, from Behind (1907, charcoal and pastel); Crouching Nude Woman Holding Grapes (1907, pastel); Nude, Bust of a Young Girl (c. 1908, pastel); Two Nude Women Standing (c. 1908, pastel); Still-life with Horn and Drum (c. 1930)

Pittsburgh (Carnegie MA): The Mirror in the Vase (1904, oil on canvas)

Rheims: Youth (c. 1903, pastel)

Rio de Janeiro (Mus. Nacional de Belas Artes): Seated Woman in a Black Dress (c. 1896)

St-Denis de la Reunion (Mus. Léon-Dierx): c. 1895, decorative design scheme for a ceiling

St-Joost-ten-Node (Charlier Mus.): Young Girl with Roses (c. 1920)

Stuttgart (Staatsgal.): Portrait of a Woman in a Garden (1897)

Tokyo (National Mus. of Western Art): Portrait of Mlle Kuroki (1921); Young Girl with Garden (1921); Women Reading (1922); Two Women, Sleep, Rest (1922); Reverie (1923)

Vienne: The End of the Book (1896)

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Jeune fille avec perroquet Edmond François Aman-Jean

c. 1910
Oil on canvas

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Jeune fille avec perroquet
by Edmond François Aman-Jean - Sold